Lower Bowel Disease in Ferrets

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Proliferative Bowel Disease

Proliferative bowel disease (PBD) is an infection of the ferret's lower colon caused by the spiral bacteria Lawsonia intracellularis (an organism which is also closely related to the bacterium causing proliferative enteritis in hamsters and swine). A relatively uncommon disease, it is seen primarily in ferrets 12 weeks to 6 months of age and in older ferrets with compromised immune systems. It is also thought that male ferrets are more susceptible to PBD.

Symptoms and Types

Diarrhea originating from the colon or large intestine is the most common symptom for PBD. It may be profuse and watery, but is more often green in color with mucous and blood. Ferrets with this form of diarrhea will struggle while defecating and cry out in pain. Other signs of PBD include:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Anorexia
  • Weakness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Fecal and urine staining of anal area


The Lawsonia intracellularis bacteria causes the disease, however, stress, poor hygiene and a diminished immune function in ferrets are contributing factors for PBD.


After conducting a physical examination, your veterinarian may want to run blood tests and a urinalysis to confirm PBD in the ferret. Otherwise, they will examine its fecal matter for parasites and take a biopsy of the animal's colon.

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